A Chorus Line, London Palladium

 

Hang on to those golden toppers; A Chorus Line is back in town for the first time in over three decades. And, make no mistake, it's alive and kicking. Michael Bennett's legendary 1975 show has been lovingly recreated here by director Bob Avian (who was his original co-choreographer) and by Baayork Lee (one of the original cast) who has re-staged the dancing. The indelible design elements are the same – the empty black box with its painted white line and the twirling mirrors at the rear. The Seventies context has been left wholly intact. But there's no whiff of mothballs or of the odour of sanctity about this production which is a miracle of seamlessness. The splendid (largely British) cast have made a sizzling connection with the show's timeless spirit of dedication to one's art through thick and thin and project it with exhilarating flair and force.

As they audition for eight places in a Broadway chorus, the seventeen hoofers are forced by the prurient God-like director Zach (John Partridge) to lay bare their souls in a kind of terpsichorean psychotherapy session. So each gets his or her turn in the literal and figurative spotlight. It's particularly invidious to single people out in these circumstances but I loved Leigh Zimmerman's Sheila, a leggy, delectably arch Miss Been Around and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who brings a hilarious, gutsy to attack to “Nothing”, an account of her humiliations at the hands of a high-school Method Acting teacher, that is one of the best songs in Marvin Hamlisch's snappy, agile score.

The nearest thing to a female lead is Cassie, the director's ex-girlfriend who is attempting to re-enter the chorus after a failed solo career. A desperate hunger to dance and a graphic emotional neediness pour out of Scarlett Strallen's body in the extraordinary sequence “The Music And The Mirror” where, multiply reflected, she performs a jagged quarrel between vulnerability and defiance.  “We're all special,” is Cassie's riposte to Zach when he tells her she's good merge into the background.  But it's a paradox of the show (or evidence of its double standards) that every atom of one's being celebrates when all these individuals unite into a glittering well-oiled machine for the hypnotic closing number which, as thrillingly executed here, is one collective (as well as singular) sensation.  Long before The X-Factor, A Chorus Line understood the drama of the elimination-process but it sets its sights higher than exploiting dabblers who fancy a fix of instant fame.

A Chorus Line at London Palladium runs until January 2014, to book call 0844 412 2957.

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